The promise of summer fun is exciting, but the thought of how the longer days will impact the sleep patterns of our little ones is a less exciting thought!
As the days grow warmer and we turn our clocks forward an hour, you may find it more difficult to settle your children and babies into their new bed time. You may also find that your mornings start a little earlier than you are used to!
Young children cannot tell the time, so the disruption to their routine is mostly due to the lighter evenings and mornings. You might recognise yourself that it can be harder to fall asleep and stay asleep when it isn’t dark, but do you know why?
Let’s explore the reasons behind disrupted sleep and some tips you can use to combat it with your little ones.
Managing Daylight Savings and Lighter Evenings
Melatonin and Sleep
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that is released by a gland in the body called the pineal gland. Melatonin relaxes our bodies and increases our drive to sleep. When light decreases in the evening, you produce more melatonin, which makes you feel drowsy. As morning dawns and it gets lighter outside, melatonin levels decrease and you wake up.
This is why daylight savings can have a big impact on your child’s sleep. Now it is becoming darker so much later than their usual bedtime, it impacts when their melatonin production is triggered. It also starts to get light at around 5-6am when their natural dose of melatonin is wearing off.
Interestingly, new-born babies do have a pineal gland, but they do not produce enough melatonin and certainly don’t produce it consistently at night. That is why they generally sleep for very short times and wake up at all hours. However, by around the 60th day of life, a baby’s melatonin production starts to increase. With the support of good sleep habits, their sleep patterns become more organised.
Tips and Tricks to Help Your Child Sleep During Daylight Savings
As you know, darkness supports sleep. This harks back to our primal roots. When night time approached for our cave dwelling ancestors, it brought with it complete darkness. Coupled with the drop in temperature, melatonin production was triggered.
You can replicate this at home by lowering the temperature to around 18 degrees and darkening the nursery or your child’s room as much as possible. You can achieve this by:-
Investing in quality blackout blinds or curtains that also have insulating properties. This means they can keep the warmth in during Winter and keep the sun out during Summer. Are your blinds dark enough? You can find this out by trying to read the text in a book while in your child’s room. If you can read it, the room isn’t dark enough! If necessary place a dark sheet or blanket over the top of the blind to block out light seeping from the sides.
If you are on holiday and find your accommodation lacking in light-reducing window dressings, attach tinfoil to the windows with sellotape. Tinfoil works a treat to block out light and is a very cost effective option! Always throw some in your bag or suitcase, just in case!
Purchase a blackout blind like the Gro Anywhere Blackout Blind. This product attaches to the window pane via suction cups, so can also be taken away on holiday if necessary.
Lavender is well-known for its relaxing and calming effects on the body, which in turn raises melatonin levels. Lavender is safe to use on children at any age and right through to adulthood. It can be integrated into your child’s sleep routine through a diffuser in their room. You can also use lavender when washing your child’s sheets by mixing 10 drops of essential oil into 4 cups of distilled white vinegar in a glass container. Mix vigorously each time you use it and add a ¼ cup to your laundry load via the fabric dispenser in your washing machine (or up to half a cup for larger loads).
Getting a healthy dose of Vitamin D-rich sunshine during the day is vital for supporting melatonin production at night. It also has the added benefit of supporting a healthy circadian rhythm too. Try and get your baby outside in natural light as much as possible. Place a blanket under a shady tree (avoid direct sunshine) in the garden and let your baby enjoy looking up at the moving branches and clouds. Babies love being outside and the extra dose of fresh air and natural light will really help boost their melatonin production at night.
While daylight savings can be disruptive for your child’s sleep patterns, it is not impossible. If you are struggling with settling your little ones to sleep at this time of year, feel free to get in touch with me here at Serene Sleep. I have plenty of support options, ranging from a short call to a more in depth in-person session. Check them out HERE.